Lately I’ve been thinking about the actual meanings of holidays and how we spend them. I can see how that might sound cliché, but I promise you that I’m not going to go into any sugar-coated speeches ending somewhere along the lines of “And that’s the true meaning of Christmas!” Those explanations, in fact, are one of the many things on my mind as I try to re-examine holidays and their celebrations. While I understand that most holidays have particular origins that connect to the ways in which we celebrate them, I think that the meanings of holidays can be subjective. No one should be ashamed to admit that a certain holiday means little to them. So what if you’re not a big fan of Valentine’s Day or even New Year’s Eve? So long as you aren’t being disrespectful of other people’s preferences and you don’t do anything to blatantly insult someone else’s tastes, you shouldn’t feel guilty or ashamed.

 Personally, I’ve always thought that a New Year’s Eve celebration is a great time to think about renewal and goals for the upcoming year. Usually, that’s been pretty easy for me to do. This past New Year’s Eve, however, that wasn’t exactly the first thing on my mind. On Dec. 31 I arrived back to Texas after over eleven hours of flight, most of them turbulent. I had spent two weeks in Buenos Aires seeing family and friends. While the majority of the trip was pleasant, there was also some drama that happened right around Christmastime, which made enjoying that particular holiday difficult. On the way back to Texas I started getting sick. In addition to that, I wasn’t able to so much as nap on my flights, and the drama was still lingering in the background. So that night, while other people partied and celebrated the quickly-approaching new year, I slept. I couldn’t even stay up until midnight, which is something I usually do pretty easily on any given day of the week. It wasn’t just my lack of sleep on the planes or my sickness; I was done with drama and hoped that I could sleep off some of my anxiety and bafflement.

 Christmas and New Year’s Eve and Day still mean a lot to me. Like New Year’s Eve, I consider Christmas to be a time of renewal, giving, gratitude and celebration. This past holiday season, however, I began to really think about the fact that Christmas, for example, isn’t so merry for everyone. One friend in particular told me that he was used to not having especially happy Christmas get-togethers. Now I finally understand what he means.

 For me, the past few holidays — Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day — have been about making changes. Perhaps you could relate that to what I think are the meanings of these holidays, but I wouldn’t quite go there. Looking back on holidays when I was younger, I remember getting candy and presents, as well as people telling me to be grateful for what I have. The turbulent moments of these past few months, especially those closer to specific holidays, have helped me to be more grateful for what I have. They have also helped me to truly acknowledge that not everyone is happy at Christmastime and New Year’s, and some people are just bent on showing dislike for Valentine’s Day. And we just have to accept that. It is our acknowledgment and acceptance of these differences that truly matters. Only then can we maybe start to have more positive feelings about holidays and the people we spend them with.